It’s no surprise that Barbara Service is one of AARP Hawaii’s most active advocates and president of the Honolulu Chapter. It runs in the family.
The avid volunteer’s great aunt was Ethel Percy Andrus, founder of the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947 and AARP in 1958 (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons).
Service began tackling the myriad challenges of Isle seniors after 43 years as a child welfare worker – 20 in California and nearly 24 in Hawaii, including 20 as a supervisor. She joined AARP about seven years ago when she turned 50 and a friend asked why she wasn’t in a local chapter. “I didn’t realize there was one. Actually, there are three on the island of Oahu,” she pointed out.
She planned to “take it easy” after retiring in 2010 but began going to AARP meetings and legislative hearings while still working and in 2009 became president of the chapter that meets in Waikiki.
“I was always interested in the Legislature,” she said. “It is so hands on, so different than California. I do think people make a difference in Hawaii.”
Her great-aunt’s mission to help retirees with inadequate pensions and no health insurance began when she discovered a retired teacher living in a chicken coop in Southern California. Service lived 10 years in Ojai, Calif., where Andrus – her grandmother’s little sister – bought a home for retired teachers and her father served as doctor.
Andrus was “an amazing woman” but very formal,” Service recalls. “We were all kind of scared of her. She was not like our grandmother, warm and fuzzy. But she was a lot of fun and was good to us and my dad.” Andrus’ accomplishments, which have benefited millions of Americans, didn’t mean anything to her as a youth but she has since heard and read a lot about her legacy. “I do want to carry it on,” Service said.
Long-term care and preservation of Social Security are among her other top concerns. This year she’s working with the Kupuna Caucus, Kokua Council and AARP Hawaii to increase awareness of the importance of Kupuna Care and other resources enabling seniors to age in their own homes.
At home Service maintains her health and energy—and a hectic schedule—with a generally low-carb diet, daily exercises and Aquaerobics at the Y. She participates in Fun Runs supporting various causes and regularly walks at Kahala Mall, near her home. She relaxes with Sudoku and crossword puzzles, reads and visits friends and family on the mainland at least once a year.
And her advocacy doesn’t end with the gavel going down on the legislative session.
“I wish we could get more young people involved in these issues,” said Service, mother of a 30-year-old son. “They’re in denial that they’re going to get older.”